Stephen Wilhite, the person who created the looping animated image format, the GIF, has died at the age of 74, according to his wife, Kathaleen, who confirmed his death to The Verge. Stephen Wilhite developed the popular GIF image format, which stands for Graphics Interchange Format, in the 1980s, while he was working at CompuServe.
GIFs have become one of the most popular image formats for internet memes today, but that wasn’t the reason Stephen Wilhite created the format. CompuServe introduced the GIF format in the late 1980s as a way to distribute high quality images in color over the internet, which was extremely slow compared to what we have today.
Stephen Wilhite also received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th Annual Webby Awards in 2013 for his invention and contribution to the internet culture. His wife described it as a “wonderful moment in his life going to New York and winning that award.”
According to the details, Stephen Wilhite died on March 14, just days after his 74th birthday due to COVID-19. He is survived by his wife, four stepchildren, a son, 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.